You arrive home after a long day at the office with lots of calls and meetings.
After doing a few household chores, it’s tempting to grab the television remote control, put your feet up and call for take out.
That’s fine … once in a while. However, do this night after night and you may find yourself out of shape, carrying extra pounds, and feeling less energetic overall.
So, how can you live a healthy lifestyle when you spend a great deal of time sitting at a desk and have a mile-long list of household and family obligations? Here are a few tips:
Schedule in Wellness
You schedule department meetings, interviews and conference calls at work. Why not schedule in exercise or sleep and relaxation at home? That’s right, open your calendar and mark off 30 or 45 minutes of time each day for your workout. You may want to have this at regular times so that exercising becomes routine in your life. In his book “Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less,” psychologist Barry Schwartz writes about how making an activity routine, or setting a rule of thumb (e.g., “I will workout right when I wake up.”) takes the recurring choice out of the equation. Instead of agonizing each day about whether or not to go for a power walk, have it scheduled so you just do it, as you would attend a morning department meeting.
Exercise, Even in Short Bouts
Now that it’s in your calendar, get your sneakers on and get moving! Research studies show that regular exercise helps prevent weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. It also can boost your immune system so you can fight viruses and bacteria before they keep you sick in bed.
How much exercise do you need? As little as two and a half hours per week of aerobic exercise like walking or bicycling is beneficial, with more exercise adding even greater health benefits. You can break your exercise up into multiple short bouts, say 15 minutes each, if it is more convenient than one long session.
A diet filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein helps you maintain energy, boost immunity and prevent unwanted weight gain. It’s a good idea to plan your family’s meals ahead of time. That way, you have the necessary ingredients and your not as tempted to pick up fast food or eat frozen dinners (often filled with sodium and saturated fats) at the last minute. Visit the USDA’s MyPlate to learn more about building a healthy plate of food.
Take Care of Your Body
Thomas Edison once said, “The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.” In order to ‘carry our brains around’ well, we need to take care of our bodies. Yes, that means avoiding those habits that sap our energy and increase our risk for chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Chief culprits are smoking, drinking more than a serving of alcohol per day on average for us women, and not getting our recommended screenings (e.g., mammograms starting at age 40, pap smears starting at age 18, cholesterol tests).
Keep in mind that you aren’t going to live a perfectly healthy lifestyle ALL the time. That’s okay. It’s important to be nice to yourself and if you have a lazy day or eat a less healthy meal, move on and make the next day/meal healthy. Visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services SmallStep website for ideas of small changes you can make to live healthier every day!
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: M. Courtney Hughes, PhD, is Founder of Approach Health, a data-driven health behavior change company. She is an expert in corporate disease management and wellness and enjoys working with employers on employee health promotion strategies and programs. Courtney lives in the Chicago area and can be found on Twitter as @ApproachHealth.